Debating on campus becomes recreational

UB’s Debate Society is back after a 12 year hiatus


This semester, Angela Kim brought a club back to UB that hasn’t been around since 2003.

The function of the club is literally, debatable.

Kim, a sophomore nursing major, set up UB’s Debate Society after meeting with professor James Holmes, who teaches an economic debate class. Holmes helped Kim pick the e-board members for the club, but Holmes wasn’t the only one who contributed.

“We had a lot of help from [the Student Association and Special Interests, Services & Hobbies] setting up the club. It was a fairly simple process,” said Matthew Mckinivan, a senior economics major and the vice president of the club, who helped Kim put it together.

UB’s Debate Society is a temporary SA club and meets every Wednesday in Davis Hall 101 at 7 p.m. As a temporary club, it has certain requirements it has to live up to that permanent clubs do not.

“[As well as living up to the standards of a permanent club], they also have to have two fundraising events per semester, “ said Sean Kaczmarek, the vice president of SA and a senior economics major.

Kaczmarek explained the other standards of being a temporary club.

“They also don’t get a starting budget from SA. We do that because we want to make sure they can sustain themselves. After they successfully complete their requirements for two consecutive semesters, they can then ask for permanent recognition from SA,” Kaczmarek said.

The club plans on becoming permanent by next year. They hold debates on a bi-weekly basis. On weeks that they don’t have debates they get together for group meetings where they talk about the debate topic for the next week and give ideas to whomever is debating.

Mckinivan explained that the club functions in a semi-parliamentary style. This means that two teams of two go head-to-head, one team arguing in support of an issue and the team arguing against the issue.

Each side talks for a total of 14 minutes: their time is split up into chunks of seven minutes, then five, then two, with the teams switching back and forth until they run down the allotted time.

Who wins the debate is decided simply – the audience votes and the side that receives the most votes wins. Although it is possible for the audience to vote on a tie, Kim, the president of the club, has never seen it happen before.

There is not currently a debate circuit in the Buffalo area but the club has been contacting nearby schools, like Daemen and Canisius, in an attempt to get them to set up debate clubs so they can compete. Right now, UB only holds debates between its members because there is no circuit in the area and because the club is temporary, it doesn’t receive money for traveling.

The Debate Society has about 200 people on its mailing list but only about twenty members show up every week. Mckinivan blames intimidation as the reason why so few people show up compared to those who have signed up.

“I think people get intimidated that it’s going to be a room full of people who’ve debated on a team for years,” said Mckinivan.

He added that the team does its best to work with anyone who shows up to their meetings, regardless of how much debate experience they have.

Although winning a debate might require some expertise and persuasive language, joining the Debate Society does not. All are welcome to test out their arguing skills.

John Jacobs is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at